• GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • FRANKISH KINGDOM
  • JOHANNES REUCHLIN
  • THE WEIMAR CONSTITUTION
  • W
  • INFLATION, REPARATIONS, AND
  • THE STRESEMANN ERA, 19231929
  • STABILIZATION AND LOCARNO,
  • CULTURE AND SOCIETY
  • ROAD TO DICTATORSHIP,
  • T
  • CONSOLIDATION OF POWER
  • THE NAZI TOTAL STATE
  • ULRICH VON HUTTEN
  • PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS
  • RELIGION AND THE CHURCHES
  • FOREIGN POLICY
  • W
  • THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
  • INVASION OF RUSSIA
  • HITLERS PLANS FOR EUROPE
  • TURNING OF THE TIDE,
  • THE HOME FRONT
  • THE RESISTANCE
  • PHILIP MELANCHTHON
  • D-DAY TO DEFEAT NAZI GERMANY
  • THE HOLOCAUST
  • A
  • ALLIED PLANS AND CONFERENCES
  • DENAZIFICATION
  • POLITICAL PARTIES AND TRADE
  • LOCAL STATE FORMATION
  • PARLIAMENTARY COUNCIL AND THE
  • ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION
  • T
  • ERASMUS OF ROTTERDAM
  • BUNDESTAG ELECTION AND
  • REGAINING SOVEREIGNTY AND INTEGRATION
  • RECONSTRUCTION AND THE ECONOMIC
  • TRANSITIONAL YEARS AND
  • THE GRAND COALITION AND YOUTH
  • THE SOCIAL-LIBERAL COALITION
  • OSTPOLITIK (FOREIGN POLICY
  • CULTURE AND SOCIETY
  • SOCIAL STRUCTURE
  • SCHMIDT ERA: SOCIAL UNREST,
  • PRINTING AND MEDICINE
  • THE KOHL ERA, 19821998
  • T
  • UPRISING OF JUNE 17, 1953
  • ECONOMIC SYSTEM
  • SOCIETY, EDUCATION, AND
  • RELATIONS WITH THE FEDERAL
  • R
  • CONSEQUENCES AND PROBLEMS OF
  • ECONOMIC UNIFICATION,
  • P
  • RENAISSANCE ART
  • UNIFICATION POLITICS AND ITS
  • FOREIGN POLICY
  • GOVERNMENT AND ELECTIONS,
  • HISTORICAL DICTIONARY A
  • A
  • Abwehr
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  • Amiens, Battle of
  • Anabaptists
  • P
  • Anglo-German Naval Treaty
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  • Armed Forces (Wehrmacht)
  • Armed Forces (Bundeswehr):
  • LUTHER AND MELANCHTHON
  • Army (Prussian to 1860)
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  • LUTHER AND ZWINGLI
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau
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  • autarchy
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  • B
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  • ANABAPTISM AND MÜNTZER
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  • blank check
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  • CHARLES V AND THE REFORMATION
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  • C
  • Brauchitsch, Walther von
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  • THE THIRTY YEARS WAR
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  • LITERATURE
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  • FREDERICK III
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  • SEVEN YEARS WAR
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  • ECONOMY
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  • O
  • THE DANISH WAR, 1864
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  • I
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  • ART AND ARCHITECTURE
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  • T
  • THE QUESTION OF
  • LATE MEDIEVAL CULTURE
  • CONDUCT OF THE WAR
  • PEACE RESOLUTION, REFORM, AND
  • AN UNPLANNED REVOLUTION
  • N
  • POLITICAL PARTIES UNPREPARED
  • A REVOLUTIONARY PATTERN
  • WORKERS AND SOLDIERS
  • KURT EISNER AND REVOLUTION IN
  • A REPUBLIC PROCLAIMED
  • A SEVERE ARMISTICE
  • T
  • ESTABLISHMENT OF A REVOLUTIONARY
  • EBERT MAKES A DEAL WITH THE
  • THE SPARTACISTS
  • INTERPRETATION OF THE
  • A VENGEFUL PEACE
  • V
  • THE GOALS OF THE PEACEMAKERS
  • TERMS OF THE TREATY
  • WAR GUILT AND REPARATIONS
  • DENUNCIATION AND RELUCTANT
  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • ROAD TO DICTATORSHIP,

    19301933

    Four general factors contributed to the accelerated growth and success of the

    Nazi Party after 1928. First, the onset of the world economic crisis in 1929

    destroyed the foundations that had been laid for the further stabilization of

    the Weimar Republic. As a direct consequence, economic, social, and political

    conflicts arose, increasingly small and large businesses collapsed, unemployment

    rose rapidly, and a great panic filled the middle class and peasantry.

    The panic increased attacks on the Versailles Treaty and reparations. Among

    the lower middle class there was a fear of being reduced to working-class status.

    Ideologically, it surfaced as a fear of communism. The radical parties on

    the left and right that rejected the parliamentary system increasingly blocked

    the formation of democratic majorities. The middle-class democratic parties

    became fragmented and multiplied but continually lost support to the radical

    right. National Socialist propaganda with its anti-Versailles revisionism, anticapitalist,

    anti-Marxist, and anti-Communist propaganda seemed to offer the

    simplest and most persuasive alternative. For many the best way out of the

    crisis appeared to be an authoritarian government that would be above individual

    and party interests. The economic factors of the Depression offered the

    partially submerged destructive forces of antidemocratic radicalism a major

    opportunity.

    The takeover of the republic by the Nazis was not inevitable. What made it

    possible was, first, the crisis of the Depression, which was interpreted by many

    Germans as a crisis of the democratic parliamentary system of the Weimar

    Republic. Second, the German National Peoples Party (DNVP) was taken over

    by Alfred Hugenberg, and Hitlers association with him gave Hitler social

    respectability, political influence, and access to necessary financial resources.

    Third, after Stresemanns death governmental crises smoothed the road toward

    an extraparliamentary quasi-dictatorship. Between 1929 and 1933 the influence

    of the democratic parties was weakened in favor of the power of the president,

    the army command, and the bureaucracy. The crises of these years

    prepared public opinion for dictatorial solutions. Democratic responsibility

    diminished after the change of governments in 1930, and more particularly in

    1932. Political life was reduced to government by the emergency law Article

    48; faith in democratic methods disappeared. A power vacuum occurred with

    wide opportunities for radical groups, especially the Nazis. Fourth, the National

    Socialists, who in the 1920s had patterned their method of seizing power after

    that of Mussolini, shifted their tactics after 1928 to winning elections, a kind of

    pseudo-legal electoral politics using mass communication, force and persuasion,

    Weimar Republic 131

    terror and propaganda, deception and violence. In the process the Nazis became

    the largest of the political parties. Hitler decided to hold out for his appointment

    to the top position as chancellor.

    In March 1930 the Socialist chancellor, Hermann Müller (18761931),

    resigned when the German People Party (DVP) refused to remain in his coalition

    government. In order to cope with the economic pressures of growing

    unemployment, Müller had proposed to raise additional funds for unemployment

    compensation. Unfortunately, both business and labor opposed the necessary

    contributions required from them. Then, when he requested permission

    from President Hindenburg to use the emergency powers of Article 48 to deal

    with the economic crisis and the growing disorders in the streets, the conservative

    Hindenburg refused. The president would not entrust the emergency

    powers to a Socialist. So, in Müllers place Hindenburg selected Heinrich Brüning

    (18851970), who was a fiscal expert, a conservative centrist, and at heart

    a monarchist. He proceeded to form a cabinet that excluded the SPD, making

    it clear that he would not be dependent on any coalition of parties. Consequently,

    he constantly resorted to Article 48 to achieve what he could not

    achieve through ordinary legislative processes. This cabinet marked the end of

    the parliamentary system and the beginning of a quasi-dictatorial presidential

    cabinet system without the consultation of the political parties. The political

    parties lost their sense of responsibility for constructive cooperation. Brüning,

    who would come to be known as the hunger chancellor, bears responsibility

    for hastily dissolving the Reichstag in July 1930 because it had understandably

    rejected his radical austerity program. It was his false hope to gain a wider support-

    base from the new elections. The economic situation was getting worse

    and worse, and street battles between opposing paramilitary factions became

    common. Unfortunately, the elections produced a landslide for the radical parties

    of the right and the left. Universal shock and amazement occurred when

    the Nazi delegates to the Reichstag increased from 12 to 107. There continued

    to be an upward surge to the radical parties when in the next Reichstag election

    of July 1932 the Nazis won 230 seats. That did not mean that Hitler was

    appointed chancellor through a parliamentary majority. The electoral success

    of the Nazi Party throughout 1932 only set the stage of the drama, but the plot

    of the drama focused on the political activities of an influential group of critics

    and opponents of the Republic. Beginning with Brüning, a procession of ambitious

    and misguided men sought to reconstruct the republic in a more conservative

    direction. The others included President Hindenburg, Franz von Papen,

    Kurt von Schleicher, Hindenburgs son, and the state secretary Meissner.

    Instead of Hitlers dictatorship being inevitable, these men manipulated events

    to make it possible.

    Despite his difficulties, Heinrich Brünings government lasted for more than

    two years. He used Article 48 and placated enough factions to remain in power.

    He was a conservative centrist, a nationalist, and his goal was to rebuild Germany,

    renounce the Versailles Treaty, and end the payment of reparations. Also,

    he favored a union (Anschluss) with Austria, and at the Geneva Disarmament

    Conference in 1932 insisted on equal rights and equal security for all peoples.

    132 Germany

    He favored the army and attempted to alleviate economic distress by classical

    conservative measures of budget-cutting and retrenchment of social services.

    Hindenburg, although initially a president loyal to the constitution, was filled

    with a profound distaste for civilian republican politics. This field marshal

    whose reputation was made at the Battle of Tannenberg was ill-qualified to

    head the republic. With the onset of the Depression crisis, he permitted his

    advisers to push him further along the road of authoritarian, extra-parliamentary

    experiments. Instead of using far-reaching emergency powers of Article 48

    to protect the republic as the first president, Freidrich Ebert, had done, he

    allowed their use to undermine it. In Hindenburgs hands the Reichstag was

    suspended, authoritarian experiments by Franz von Papen and Kurt von

    Schleicher were supported, and the state government of Prussia was taken over

    and its democratic government abolished. Ultimately Hindenburg permitted a

    terrorist power grab by a minority government under Hitler after January 30,

    1933.

    Although the expansion of the Nazi Party appeared to be unstoppable, it

    might have been countered in two ways. By permitting a carefully contained

    National Socialist participation in a parliamentary government, their chances

    of opposition might have been limited. Or, legal and political action against their

    antidemocratic activities might have been attempted. In fact, however, nothing

    was done, even though the Nazi camouflage of legalism for their radicalism

    was clear. The antidemocratic antiparliamentarian nature of the Nazi movement

    was readily apparent. One of the most notorious examples of the failure

    of the judicial authorities to take action against the Nazis occurred during

    autumn 1931. At that time a secret plot was uncovered, detailed in the Boxheim

    documents, which were the plans for a terrorist regime after a Nazi

    seizure of power. The documents revealed plans for shooting enemies, the suppression

    of public life, and a dictatorship by the Nazi Party. Central and regional

    governments now had unmistakable evidence of Nazi plans, but used only feeble

    countermeasures.

    In the midst of these political and economic problems Hindenburgs presidential

    term expired. It was symptomatic of the shift to the right that Hindenburg,

    who in 1925 had been a candidate of the conservatives, in 1932 became

    a candidate of the moderates and even the Socialists in 1932. Despite the senility

    of the 84-year-old general, the Socialists had no better candidate to compete

    with Hitler and defend the republic. Actually, Hindenburg felt uncomfortable

    being the candidate of the left, but did so anyway. There had to be two ballots,

    and Hindenburg was reelected by 19.3 million votes against Hitlers 13.4 million.

    Nevertheless, Hitler staged a remarkable and dramatic campaign using the

    airplane and other technology to drum up 13.4 million votes. Hitler over Germany

    was the slogan that represented Hitlers impressive campaign.

    Another example of the governments failure to stop the Nazis involved the

    Storm Troops (SA) in spring 1932. When the acting minister of the interior,

    General Wilhelm Groener, finally outlawed the SA, President Hindenburg

    objected and dismissed Groener. It was, however, a financial scandal that ended

    Brünings career as chancellor. Even though he had tried to help the East Elbian

    landholder friends of Hindenburg with financial aid (Osthilfe), Brüning was

    Weimar Republic 133

    resented and finally dismissed by Hindenburg when he resisted the inclusion

    of Nazis in his cabinet. Hindenburg now betrayed the forces that reelected him

    president, and he followed a right-wing authoritarian solution by selecting

    Franz von Papen (18791969) as chancellor.

    On the advice of General Kurt von Schleicher (18821934) and the

    Harzburg Front, Hindenburg on June 1, 1932, appointed von Papen, who had

    friends among the nobility and who was a confident master of intrigue who

    believed he could keep Hitler out of power with a coalition of conservative aristocrats,

    industrialists, and army men, in short, a cabinet of barons and army

    officers. Von Papen made concessions to Hitler to get Nazi support and opened

    the path to dictatorship. One of the concessions was the dissolution of the

    Reichstag in June 1932, resulting in the July Reichstag elections in which the

    Nazis polled their highest vote (230 seats) ever. Von Papen also made the mistake

    of eliminating the ban on the SA, which brought him into conflict with

    the state governments that wanted to continue the ban. Pitched battles

    occurred in the streets of Berlin between Nazis and Communists, which led von

    Papen to take dictatorial measures deposing the socialist prime minister of Prussia

    in a coup détat on July 20 because he supposedly was unable to maintain

    peace in his state. Von Papen violated the constitution when he placed Prussia

    under martial law in order to please the ultraconservatives. Not only did von

    Papen get control of the Prussian police, but he also established a precedent for

    the Nazi policy of coordination (Gleichschaltung), which they implemented

    seven months later. Von Papen even attempted to make a bargain with Hitler

    to join the government, but Hitler demanded the full powers of chancellor. Von

    Papen also proposed the long term-suspension of parliament as an opportunity

    to institute authoritarian constitutional reforms that would give the president

    wide dictatorial powers. After von Papen dissolved the Reichstag, he proposed

    a coup détat of the Reich government and a ban on all political parties, which

    would permit the chancellor to govern without the Reichstag. Hindenburg

    rejected this proposal as unconstitutional. Finally, von Papen resigned and a

    new cabinet was formed by General Schleicher.

    Schleichers government lasted only two months. He had persuaded Hindenburg

    that he was capable of solving the crisis without forcing the president

    to break his constitutional oath. He had become fearful that Hitlers personal

    army was a threat to the army, and now was determined to stop the Nazi

    steamroller. Schleicher was unable to split the Nazi Party as he had hoped, and

    he was unable to deal with the economic crisis. There was endless intrigue, and

    in the end von Papen succeeded in convincing Hindenburg to dismiss Schleicher.

    In the meantime Hitler had abandoned his demands for exclusive power

    and was willing to join a coalition government, however with himself as chancellor.

    As a result Hindenburg agreed to appoint Hitler as chancellor on January

    30, 1933. When Hitler moved into the chancellery in Berlin, he is supposed to

    have remarked to Goebbels: No one will ever get me out of here alive!

    134 Germany

    As we have seen, Hitler became chancellor legally. That does not mean that he

    was the choice of the majority of the German people. At most the Nazis

    received 37 percent of the vote. In fact, at the very time that he was appointed,

    the strength of the Nazi Party was already declining. Why then was he chosen

    chancellor? Hitler was accepted at the last minute by conservative elites who

    were frightened by General Schleichers attempt to obtain mass support for his

    policies from the left. They feared a Communist takeover. All of these conservatives,

    however, underestimated Hitlers political skills, and they assumed that

    he could be controlled by them. They were not expecting him to make himself

    a dictator nor to create a totalitarian state. Hitler outsmarted them all and

    created the foundations for the Führer state within a short two months. Using

    Article 48, which enabled him to be appointed chancellor, Hitler used it to abolish

    civil liberties. In the cabinet of ministers of which he was the prime minister,

    only three members were Nazis, and Hindenburg always had the power to

    dismiss him. In fact, many observers did not think that he would last very long.

    The Nazis, however, had a critical advantage in having control of the police in

    Prussia. Hermann Göring had taken control of the police in the largest state of

    Germany, and Wilhelm Frick, as Reich minister of the interior, had control over

    the remaining forces. Furthermore, the minister of defense, General Werner

    von Blomberg, favored the Nazis and would not have used the army against

    them.

    were   GERMANC   Germany   Party   their   Prussians   army   state   government   became   they   during   Austrian   CHURCHES   French   political   Frederick   Nazis   Social   Hitler   after   against   economic   some   republican